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Compassion and Cannabis

Apr 30, 2015

A bill that would set up rules and the system for dispensing medical marijuana advanced out of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday. Although law enforcement opposition has derailed similar bills in previous sessions, the difference with Fred Mills’ SB 143 was the support of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.

“The move that our sheriffs made was to be compassionate; was to do things to provide relief,” Sheriffs’ Association director Mike Renatza testified, “And to hopefully not harm anyone.”

Renatza said each sheriff examined his own conscience, and asked themselves, “What would you do? What would you do for your son? What would you do for your daughter?”

Tuesday’s House Ways and Means hearing on bills to cap the film tax credit program brought out some of the big names in Louisiana movie-making, like Lampton Enochs of the Oscar-winning Moonbot Studios, and former Dukes of Hazzard star, John Schneider.

“I have not won an Academy Award, but I’ve seen several films that have,” Schneider said, eliciting laughter from committee members and the packed audience in attendance.

But charmed as lawmakers were by the big names, it was Louisiana residents working in the movie industry who made the biggest impression. Dozens spoke against Alexandria Rep. Lance Harris’s bill that would scale the credits down to zero over the next five years.

The House Ways and Means Committee started working through several revenue-raising bills Monday, including one that would increase the cigarette tax.

There was the expected health related testimony.

“In Louisiana, more than 22 percent of adults and 12 percent of youth smoke cigarettes — the only product that, when used as directed, will kill half of all its users,” said Dr. Michael Johnson, director of Louisiana Tobacco-Free Living.

“When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” The naval adage, quoted in Wouk’s 1951 “The Caine Mutiny” and again in Heinlein’s 1973 “Time Enough for Love”, pretty well describes the current status of both the state budget and legislative action.


The four major candidates for governor participated in a forum Thursday, put on by the Public Affairs Research Council in Baton Rouge. Scott Angelle, Jay Dardenne and John Bel Edwards each appeared in person, while David Vitter participated via pre-recorded video.

Predictably, they sniped at Governor Bobby Jindal.


As lawmakers wrap up week two of the fiscal session, their efforts to steer the budget bus keep hitting curbs. Now they’re starting to exhibit some road rage.

In the Senate Education Committee Wednesday, a bill that would uncouple TOPS scholarship amounts from future college tuition hikes — in order to contain the cost to the state — drew opposition from the administration.

“This legislation would negatively impact the program,” Jindal policy advisor Stafford Palmieri stated, “Because we’ve broken our promise to fully pay for their tuition to go to college.”

“You oppose this plan?” Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor asked. “Then show us your plan. How do you propose to support higher education?”


In the worry over a potential 82 percent state funding cut for higher education, there has been a recurrent theme: more autonomy.

“One of the things we’ve asked for are autonomies,” Higher Education Commissioner Joseph Rallo has said on several occasions. They would allow us — whether it’s audits or procurements — to go out there in the marketplace and get some competitive bids.”

A bill that would grant some of those autonomies, HB 766 by Gretna Rep. Bryan Adams, was heard in House Education Tuesday afternoon.


The House Appropriations Committee has advanced a bill that would keep highway dollars committed to road work by limiting how much can be shifted to State Police.

“Throughout this state, the common theme is that the legislators have raided the Transportation Trust Fund for other needs,” said New Iberia Rep. Terry Landry, in explaining reasons for authoring HB 208.

Landry said one of those reasons is not any kind of problem with the Department of Public Safety or Louisiana State Police.

Tax bills are on the agenda this week, in both the House and the Senate, and Governor Bobby Jindal says he’ll have his Secretary of Revenue and Commissioner of Administration watching the process closely.

“Tim Barfield and Kristy (Nichols) absolutely will be in committee and available to provide our perspective on these bills,” Jindal told reporters late last week.


Gov. Bobby Jindal called members of the capitol press corps into his office Thursday, sitting down with them to give his impressions of the first week of the session. He spent much of the time speaking of his support for Rep. Mike Johnson’s HB 707.

“This bill simply prevents the state from discriminating against Christians and others with traditional views of marriage,” Jindal stated. “It’s hard for me to see why anybody would be opposed to that.”


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